independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Alcoholism central to Amanda Hutton case

Amanda Hutton is an alcoholic mother-of-eight whose drinking took over her life to such an extent that she neglected her children and starved her four-year-old son to death.

Hutton began abusing alcohol and cannabis more than 20 years ago and the story of her addiction was central to the arguments over how Hamzah Khan died.

The 43-year-old former care worker claimed that although she went through periods of heavy drinking before Hamzah's death, it was only after the tragedy that it dominated her life.

She said her house descended into what her barrister described as "appalling squalor" and she "drank herself into oblivion" only after December 15, 2009.

But prosecutors told her "you cared more about alcohol than you did about that child" and told the jury how "as the child wasted away, she did nothing but sit in her bedroom and drink vodka".

Family, friends, professionals and even her other children have talked about Hutton's heavy drinking dating back years before Hamzah's death - or even his birth.

Her grown-up son, Qaiser, now 22, described how his mother - who once worked in an old people's home - would take to her bedroom with a bottle during the daytime when he was young.

Hutton's continuing alcohol problems were highlighted during the trial when, on the day her defence was due to begin, she was too drunk to give evidence after the police delivered her to court.

Her explanation for this involved another key factor in Hutton's life - her volatile relationship with Hamzah's father Aftab Khan.

She said her behaviour that day in court was prompted by a visit from Khan, whom she first started seeing in the 1980s.

Police were called to allegations of domestic violence by Khan numerous times over nearly 20 years.

The couple split in December 2008 after an incident which led to Khan's conviction for assaulting Hutton and a court granted a non-molestation order to keep him away.

At this point she and most of her children, including Hamzah, moved out of Khan's house, where they had lived for many years.

They moved to another home in Bradford for a few months but then moved again, to the house where Hamzah died.

What happened at that house in the nine months between moving in and Hamzah dying might never be fully known.

Hutton admitted she had problems getting Hamzah to eat, saying he was "fussy or faddy" with food.

But other children in the house said he was fed less than the others.

One of the youngsters said in a video interview seen by the jury that Hamzah was in the bath the day before he died and looked "absolutely appalling".

The child said: "He looked really skinny, stick thin. He didn't get fed much. He got fed a lot less than we did."

The youngster said Hamzah only got one meal a day and had difficulty walking.

The child said Hutton vomited regularly and could not walk properly because of her alcohol consumption.

"She drank more vodka than water," the youngster said.

In the weeks before his death, Hutton said she was feeding Hamzah just a Complan-type nourishment drink to try to get his weight up.

Another witness talked of him existing on bananas, milk and anything else he could find around the house.

But Hutton said she did not have any real concerns because Qaiser and another of her children had gone through a similar stage and grown out of it.

Even when Hamzah was ill the day before he died, she said she thought it was not serious enough to call for medical help and claimed he perked up the next morning.

On the day of Hamzah's death Hutton went to a supermarket but was called back by another son, Tariq, now 24, because something was wrong.

She told the jury she returned to find Hamzah dead.

Detailed forensic evidence showed her son had suffered malnutrition and this most likely contributed "wholly or in part" to his death.

When his body was found, it was in a baby-gro intended for a six to nine-month-old baby. It fitted him - he was four-and-half years old.

Even before Hamzah's body was found with a teddy in a travel cot, under shoes, clothes and blankets, police found a house in a state of squalor which the judge described as a "terrible Pandora's box".

The four-bed terrace was filled with rubbish and a terrible smell. The lounge was almost knee deep in vodka bottles, takeaway containers and other debris.

Children's beds were soaked in urine and, in the fridge, there was rotting food and ready meals that were months out of date.

One of the first police officers who went into the house, Pc Jane Lax, said she was "overcome by emotion" by some of the things she saw, including the sight of two children dressed only in dirty nappies crawling up the stairs towards her.

Pc Lax also recalled finding it difficult to cope with the sight of one child the house on their knees, rummaging through piles of rotting debris in a bedroom, preparing to leave the house with the officers.

She said there were emotional scenes when the remaining children were removed from the property. She said she remembered one giving Hutton a hug as she sat on her bed.

Another of Hamzah's siblings told police about trying to give Hamzah mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep him alive.

One told police how Hutton instructed them to tell people that Hamzah had gone to stay with his uncle in Portsmouth.

Hutton told the jury it was a relief when she was arrested in September 2011 and Hamzah's death was finally discovered.

Some neighbours told the jury of their shock when police came out of Hutton's house with children they never knew existed.

Press Association

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